Upside-Down Greens Offer Big Challenge

By Associated PressJune 11, 2005, 4:00 pm
PINEHURST, N.C. -- Few players can butcher a hole quite like John Daly. But his performance in the final round of the 1999 U.S. Open was spectacular, even by his standards.
The last time the Open was played at Pinehurst, the enigmatic two-time major winner made an 11 on the par-4, 485-yard eighth hole on the famed No. 2 course'yet that was only part of the story. How he totaled that score earned him a place in tournament lore.
Daly already was well behind the leaders when he launched a 340-yard drive down the fairway at No. 8, then pulled his second shot left of the green. He was left with a delicate shot up a large swale, much like dozens of others he and the rest of the competitors played all week.
He twice tried to putt the ball close to the flag, only to have it stop short and roll back toward his feet. Finally, with the ball still rolling after his fourth shot, Daly swiped at it and sent it flying over the green, incurring a two-shot penalty.
When he finished a round of 83 that left him in last place, he vowed never to return to the U.S. Open.
Its not worth it. This is my last U.S. Open'ever, Daly said. Ive had it with the USGA and the way they run their tournaments. The USGA loves to embarrass guys who play in their tournaments.
Well, hes back for another try at Pinehursts undulating greens and generous run-off areas. Daly finished 21st on the PGA Tour money list last season to give him a full exemption to the U.S. Open, and the conditions he and the other 155 players will face should be eerily similar to five years ago.
They return with a new way to describe No. 2s greens: upside down.
Pinehurst is unlike any other golf course we play, Tiger Woods said. I mean, its upside-down bowls really, or turtle backs, however you want to look at it.
At least theyre consistent. Each presents the same challenge, with only the most perfectly struck approach shot good enough to hold the green. When it doesnt, the ball will end up on the shaved grass surrounding the putting surface, leaving many options.
Daly tried using his putter, and while that didnt work so well for him, its probably the easiest, safest way to play the course. Other options include some type of wedge, a mid-iron or even a fairway metal.
Around there, every shot is a different deal, Scott Verplank said. You can try about any shot you want. Some of them will work, some of them wont.
Phil Mickelson came to Pinehurst nearly two weeks before the Open to work through those shots with short-game guru Dave Pelz. They spent nearly three full days around the course'Mickelson also practiced with teacher Rick Smith'and Pelz again was struck by the unique design by Donald Ross.
Look for Mickelson to be one of the few players who sticks with his wedge. Growing up, whenever he worked on his chipping, he only used his sand wedge, and he became so proficient that he sees no reason to change.
Given the results, that isnt surprising. Mickelson gets so much spin on the ball from around the green that hes had the grooves of his club checked.
I wouldnt bring four or five clubs out there and chip with an 8-iron and chip with a 9-iron, so Id bring my one club, and I would hit a variety of different shots, Mickelson said. Id hit a lob shot over the bunker or hit a low bump-and-run by scooting it back, so I hit all the shots around the green with the same club.
Daly certainly had his problems with the course setup, but most players raved about the first Open held at Pinehurst. The USGA obviously agreed and decided to return only six years later'the first time its happened that quickly at any course since 1946.

While the greens were difficult, the rest of the course was relatively benign five years ago, with rough low enough to allow aggressive play and wider-than-normal fairways.
Some of that has changed for 2005. The fairways are a bit narrower and some holes have been lengthened, but no one doubts where the tournament will be won and lost.
I absolutely love Pinehurst, its the short-game paradise, Pelz said. I love to see the iron shots come onto the green and dribble off. And you see the guys think, Now what do I do?
Its a great test, and itll come down to who scrambles the best.
Related links:
  • Full Coverage - 105th U.S. Open

  • Tee Times - U.S. Open

  • Photo Gallery from Pinehurst

    Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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    Pepperell among co-leaders early in Qatar

    By Associated PressFebruary 22, 2018, 5:06 pm

    DOHA, Qatar – Eddie PepperellGregory Havret, and Aaron Rai made the most of calm early morning conditions at Doha Golf Club to set the pace in the opening round of the Qatar Masters at 7-under-par 65 on Thursday.

    Havret went bogey free, Pepperell made one bogey and eight birdies, while fellow English golfer Rai eagled his last hole to add to five birdies.

    One shot behind the leaders were four players, including former Ryder Cup player Edoardo Molinari of Italy and former champion Alvaro Quiros of Spain.

    Defending champion Jeunghun Wang of South Korea started with a 68, and Race to Dubai leader Shubhankar Sharma of India shot 69 despite a double bogey on the 15th hole.

    Full-field scores from the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters

    Pepperell, who is fast gaining a reputation on the European Tour for his irreverent tweets and meaningful blogs, showed his clubs can also do an equal amount of talking after missing cuts in Abu Dhabi, Dubai, and Malaysia.

    Pepperell birdied Nos. 10, 11, 14, 16 and 18 with a single blemish on 13 after starting on the back nine. He made three more birdies on his back nine.

    He was joined on top of the leaderboard by Havret, who made five birdies in six holes from the sixth, and Rai, who eagled the last.

    ''I surprised myself, really,'' said Pepperell, who finished third in Portugal and Netherlands last year.

    ''I've made some changes this week with personnel, so I've been working on a couple of new things and I surprised myself out there with how well I managed to trust it.

    ''I hit some quality tee shots, that's the area I feel that I've been struggling with a bit lately. We had a good time.

    ''It's definitely a bigger picture for me this week than tomorrow and indeed the weekend. I'm not overly-fussed about my early season form.”

    Molinari, a three-time champion on the tour including last year in Morocco, started with eight straight pars, and then made seven birdies in his last 10 holes, including a chip-in for birdie on the last.

    ''I hit every green apart from the last one. I hit a lot of fairways, I had a lot of chances for birdie,'' said Edoardo, the older brother of Francesco.

    ''Last week in Oman, I had a decent week, I had a bad first round and then three very good rounds. It's been the case for the last few weeks so my focus this week was to try and get a good start.''

    Oliver Fisher of England was the best among the afternoon groups with a 6-under 66, joining Molinari, Quiros and Germany's Marcel Schneider in a tie for fourth.

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    Tiger Tracker: Honda Classic

    By Tiger TrackerFebruary 22, 2018, 4:45 pm

    Tiger Woods is making his third start of the year at the Honda Classic. We're tracking him at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.

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    Honda Classic: Tee times, TV schedule, stats

    By Golf Channel DigitalFebruary 22, 2018, 2:15 pm

    The PGA Tour heads back east to kick off the Florida Swing at PGA National. Here are the key stats and information for the Honda Classic. Click here for full-field tee times.

    How to watch:

    Thursday, Rd. 1: Golf Channel, 2-6PM ET; live stream:

    Friday, Rd. 2: Golf Channel, 2-6PM ET; live stream:

    Saturday, Rd. 3: Golf Channel, 1-2:45PM ET; live stream:; CBS, 3-6PM ET

    Sunday, Rd. 4: Golf Channel, 1-2:45PM ET; live stream:; CBS, 3-6PM ET

    Purse: $6.6 million ($1,188,000 to the winner)

    Course: PGA National, Palm Beach Gardens, Florida (par-70; 7,140 yards)

    Defending champion: Rickie Fowler (-12) won by four, picking off his fourth PGA Tour victory.

    Notables in the field:

    Tiger Woods

    • Making his fourth start at the Honda Classic and his first since withdrawing with back spasms in 2014.

    • Shot a Sunday 62 in a T-2 finish in 2012, marking his lowest career final-round score on the PGA Tour.

    • Coming off a missed cut at last week's Genesis Open, his 17th in his Tour career.

    Rickie Fowler

    • The defending champion owns the lowest score to par and has recorded the most birdies and eagles in this event since 2012.

    • Fowler's last start was at the Waste Management Phoenix Open, where he failed to close a 54-hole lead. Fowler is 1-for-6 with 54-hole leads in his Tour career, with his only successful close coming at last year's Honda.

    • On Tour this year, Fowler is first in scrambling from the fringe, second in total scrambling and third in strokes gained around the green. 

    Rory McIlroy

    • It's been feast or famine for McIlroy at the Honda. He won in 2012, withdrew with a toothache in 2013, finished T-2 in 2014 and missed the cut in 2015 and 2016.

    • McIlroy ascended to world No. 1 with his victory at PGA National in 2012, becoming the second youngest player at 22 years old to top the OWGR, behind only Woods. McIlroy was later edged by a slightly younger 22-year-old Jordan Spieth.

    • Since the beginning of 2010, only Dustin Johnson (15) has more PGA Tour victories than McIlroy (13). 

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    Lexi, J. Korda part of four-way tie in Thailand

    By Associated PressFebruary 22, 2018, 1:01 pm

    CHONBURI, Thailand – Three-time tour winner Minjee Lee of Australia finished with a superb eagle putt to be among the four leaders after Day 1 of the LPGA Thailand at Siam Country Club on Thursday.

    Lee sank a 45-foot putt on the 18th hole to card a 6-under-par 66 to tie for the lead with 2016 champion Lexi Thompson, Jessica Korda, and local hope Moriya Jutanugarn.

    ''I just hit the collar. I didn't know if I was going to have enough. Such a big break there. I'm glad it caught the hole,'' Lee said.

    ''It's a second-shot golf course. Your approaches are really important, and obviously being in the right spots with the undulation. And if you have a hot putter that's going to help.''

    Full-field scores from the Honda LPGA Thailand

    Lee won the Vic Open near Melbourne this month and opened her 2018 LPGA tour account last week at the Women's Australian Open, finishing fifth.

    Thompson, who won this event in 2016 by six shots with a 20-under total and tied for fourth last year, started her latest round in style with an eagle followed by a birdie only to bogey the third hole. She carded four more birdies.

    ''It definitely helps to get that kind of start, but I was just trying to keep that momentum and not get ahead of myself,'' Thompson said.

    Her compatriot Korda had a roller-coaster round which featured eagles on the first and 17th holes, five birdies, a double bogey on the sixth, and two bogeys.

    Jutanugarn was the only player among the four to end the day without a bogey.

    ''I had a good start today, it was better than I expected,'' said Jutanugarn, who was seventh here last year.

    She's trying to become the first Thai winner of the tournament.

    Two-time champion Amy Yang and world No. 2 Sung Hyun Park were among six players at 5 under.